The Decency Factor


I came across a note today from a man I’d done some work with several years ago. He was a VP for a client company I had and knew him mostly through meetings and a few one-on-one interactions.

He was obviously intelligent with an unremarkable personality. As I recalled, he always got the job done and was pleasant enough with little to say except in the performance of his job.

I remembered some comments behind his back about how boring he was or what a nerd, etc.

In a business setting, those are the kinds of things best left unsaid, and I can usually mark the speaker as immature and one who probably causes more problems than he or she solves. Those things quickly help me identify the players within any company or group.

A few years after ending my consultation Bob called me, almost apologetically asking me to lunch. He said he was sorry to bother me and that he knew I was usually busy, etc., but he needed some advice and thought that buying me lunch might suffice instead of my usual fee.

That was the first time I’d ever detected any humor at all from him. He was right, I was busy, and I almost turned him down. I could tell he was troubled, so I thought, why not?

Bob was obviously down. He smiled and put on a good front, but I had no doubt something was wrong. He’d been out of work for awhile and wasn’t making headway in getting even

second interviews with potential employers.

His company, my former client, had been sold and he was one of the unfortunate who’d been laid off several months before.

The food at the little Vietnamese restaurant in Orange County California was tasty and cheap. Surely, I joked, not a fair trade for my consulting fee.

I wasn’t sure what I could do, but after asking a few questions and even doing a brief mock interview, I made some suggestions on handling interviews with some tactics that he said he would try next time.

A couple of months later, I got a grateful note and an Amazon Gift Card, thanking me for one specific suggestion that he felt helped him nail an interview and get a new job.

Later, he recommended his new employer to me for a possible consulting gig. While that didn’t close, he and I exchanged notes from time to time, and after I had moved to Las Vegas, we lost touch.

A few years later I came across his Facebook page that said, “RIP.”

I hadn’t seen his page in years. The notes from family and friends were very touching. He was only in his 50’s, but I didn’t know how he died.

What came through from so many mourners was what a kind man he’d been. How helpful he was in his church and kid’s activities. How he’d gone out of his way to help others and the sincerity of most of those leaving comments.

I also noticed a few remarks from some of his former workers, a couple of whom I recalled had made fun of him. He’d also told me at lunch that day that he’d reached out some of those people for networking or suggestions about jobs they might know about. None of them had responded.

What strikes me today, seeing that old note, is how easily we can pass judgment over another. How we can be imprinted with incorrect information that forms an opinion that is often as not, wrong about another human, feeling being.

It’s another reminder that when in doubt about another person, just be decent. At worst, if we don’t care for their “personality,” be neutral.

We have no idea of the reality of who they are, what pain they have suffered or are suffering now. So, just treat them with decency. It’s so easy to do.

What’s incomplete in your life or business?
Perhaps this is the help you need?

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